By Mike McKissack
Students in the “Writing in the Community” class at College of DuPage recently had the opportunity to put their professional writing skills to the test, partnering with Literacy DuPage to strengthen the organization’s profile in the fight against illiteracy in DuPage County.
For COD student David Knake, who recently completed the College’s Professional Writing Certificate program, the experience was invaluable.
“Writing in the Community was one of the most valuable classes I ever took at COD,” he said. “The curriculum included writing in an effort to raise money, as well as writing recommendation reports to showcase the things we learned about the organization and how they can improve their institution. Literacy DuPage did a fantastic job letting us help with their organization and gave us critical feedback on the projects we completed. This class was not only a great way to provide us with professional writing experience, but also gave us the confidence to continue writing for organizations and jumpstart our writing careers.”
Dedicated to empowering adult learners to achieve their goals through literacy, Naperville-based Literacy DuPage is a community-based organization serving more than 30 communities in DuPage for over 40 years. The non-profit recruits and trains volunteers to provide free tutoring to adults seeking to improve their English speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Literacy DuPage Executive Director Therese McMahon credits the College with providing a talented group of students, many with an interest in community work. the partnership provided the students with an invaluable learning experience.
“This partnership provided students with a wide range of projects designed to help build their skills and gain experience in a professional setting,” she said. “They worked on key elements that every non-profit organization needs, including interviews with clients, fund raisers and grant proposals.”
McMahon said that as a small organization of less than a dozen staffed employees, the students provided a great service to Literacy DuPage and the community.
“The students were so creative,” she said. “They worked with our marketing personnel to come up with fundraising ideas, one of which raised $3,000. They also came up with other great ideas that we plan to implement in the future.”
College of DuPage Associate Professor of English Dr. Steven Accardi said that he asked Literacy DuPage to partner with the class not only because of the opportunity for students to gain crucial educational experience working with a non-profit organization, but also because of the important and positive work Literacy DuPage does for the local community.
“While students gained professional experiences, met with professionals in the field, and added lines to their resumes, their work directly impacted our community,” he said. “The success stories drew attention to the positive effects Literacy DuPage has on its tutors and learners, which in turn attracts more tutors and learners to participate in the program; and the grants and fundraising projects attracts donors, which in turn supports and sustains the mission of Literacy DuPage. Everyone in the community benefits when we all support each other.”
Accardi said Literacy DuPage and the Writing in the Community course plan to continue this partnership in the future and added that COD and its students are uniquely positioned to gain the greatest impact from such partnerships with local organizations.
“Unlike university students who return home during winter and summer break, our students are already home,” he said. “They live in the community, work in the community and are impacted by the community. Now, by writing in the community and applying the writing techniques and rhetorical strategies from the Professional Writing program, they improve our community.”
Knake credits the experience and the College as a whole in helping him find his career path. He will attend Miami University in Ohio this fall and plans to double major in Professional Writing and Comparative Media Studies.
“College of DuPage helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses and pushed me further toward a career where I can apply my skills,” he said. “Coming out of high school I wasn’t very confident in my writing ability, but after two years of taking professional writing courses at COD, I’ve gained the skills and self-assurance to write on a professional level.”
Aimed at students who are interested in community writing, already working at a community organization, or creating their own community space, the Writing in the Community course is part of the College’s 18 credit-hour Professional Writing Certificate program, which teaches students to communicate effectively in a variety of professional settings across a wide range of fields, including business, government, health care, industry, nonprofit and technology.
Registration for the fall 2018 semester at College of DuPage is ongoing for new and returning students. The fall term begins Monday, Aug. 20, and includes 16-, 12- and two 8-week sessions. To register, students can visit myaccess.cod.edu; stop by the Registration office in the Student Services Center, Room 2221; or call (630) 942-2377.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 26,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants seven associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.